World Cup Day 5 Preview: Champions Step Up

Brazil take on Croatia today in what will be probably the “most watched” match in this first round of matches (the “most hyped” award going to England vs Paraguay – a match that also won plaudits for being the biggest “damp squid” from the media). Everyone has been waiting to finally see the champions in action – reports of Brazil’s training routines being more fun than work and totally open to the press have resulted in the Brazilians being called everything from arrogant to 2006 World Champions.

Despite the hype – more like ‘resigned expectation’ rather – Croatia are not much of a match for Brazil on form.. Having said that, history has shown that the favorites tend to slip up quite a lot, and with the other ‘favourites’ slow to get started, many have tipped Brazil to stumble through their first match.

The other two matches involve Group G, where South Korea take on Togo and France take on Switzerland. Maybe it’s the excessive football I’ve watched in the last four days, but despite the quality football on display Group G is simply not interesting enough. France have an exceptionally strong team but should meet strong resistance in the Swiss who play tight and defend well. The Swiss would be ecstatic to get a point off the French.

Recent head-to-head encounters were in the World Cup qualifiers in which both matches ended in draws. The Swiss have not lost in 2006, but with Zidane, Ribery and Henry you can never bet against the French squeezing a victory out of nothing. That, plus they have the ghost of 2002 (when they failed to score a goal and finished bottom of their group) to banish. Three Arsenal players here – Henry (F) Djourou and Senderos (S). Fancy Arsenal adding to their goal scored column?

South Korea – semi-finalists in World Cup 2002 (biased/poor refereeing had a lot to do with that) and an impressive team otherwise, should be able to overcome Togo easily. Ji Sung Park of United will feature – I’m betting on him to score and open United’s account in the World Cup (although based on his club form a goal would be considered very lucky). The French have Saha and Silvestre as United players in the squad – however neither of them are in the starting lineup – neither is Trezeguet, with Wiltord playing instead.

More after the matches.

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